The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Inadmissible Evidence begins as three characters—Bill Maitland, one of Her Majesty’s judges, and a clerk of the court—“come to some sort of life out of the blur of dream.” In this nightmarish dream prologue, Bill’s law office is temporarily metamorphosed into a courtroom where Bill is a prisoner on trial “for having unlawfully and wickedly made known, and caused to be procured and made known a wicked, bawdy and scandalous object.” Bill’s own life is the depersonalized “object” that is being tried. Bill pleads “not guilty” and, when asked to swear and affirm, ironically states, in bureaucratic jargon, his belief in “the technological revolution” and its attendant benefits and ills.

Bill is asked to proceed to his defense before the prosecution has made its case. He provides a rather disjointed history of his law career, asserts that he is indecisive, and confesses that he has “depended almost entirely on other people’s efforts.” Bill states that he had hoped only “to have the good fortune of friendship” and the “love of women”; he believes, however, that he hardly succeeded with the first and that he inflicted “more pain than pleasure” with the second.

As the dream ends, Bill emerges into consciousness and enters his office, where he addresses sexual innuendoes to Shirley, his secretary, and is hostile to Jones, his clerk. As a perfunctory apology for being late, Bill explains that he could not get a taxi, the first of many references he makes to not being noticed. As he prepares for Mrs. Garnsey’s visit, he tells Hudson about his private life with Liz, his mistress, and repeatedly asks him why he has foisted Mrs. Garnsey off on him. Hudson’s answer: “I’d say divorce was your line.” Act 2 will demonstrate the ties between Bill’s own precarious marriage and the failed marriages of his clients.

Before his first appointment, Bill speaks on the telephone to Anna, his wife, and to Liz, his mistress, then learns from Shirley, who is pregnant, that she is giving her notice. As the morning continues to deteriorate, Bill asks Hudson to become his partner, only to learn that Hudson is himself thinking of leaving. Mrs. Garnsey’s comments about leaving her husband also...

(The entire section is 927 words.)